Going for a Run

One o’clock in the afternoon. I’m heading home from the office. I’m working part-time at a local company. It’s a great set-up for me. It’s right in my town, a mile from home, and the organization’s mission is right up my alley. It’s domestic violence and sexual assault non-profit. We advocate against it… we shelter from…

Well, I don’t. I account. Possibly I’ll fund-raise. Hopefully, I’ll write. I’m not even an employee—I’m not on the payroll, I’m a contract employee. I like to call myself a consultant. It sounds bad ass… workplace-bad ass. I’m going to put it on my resume. Consultant – July 2017 to present. Employers are going to be begging me to come work for them.

I got this job fifteen minutes after I left my old job. I went from the meeting where they told me to turn in my keys, and don’t worry about working my final two weeks of work, and headed straight into an interview. I met with the CEO and her second in command—two good-natured women several years younger than me. I was unemployed for about four days.

That meeting with my old employer: In addition to taking my keys, they gave me a sealed manila folder containing “something we think you’ll like.” It was a non-disparagement agreement. They offered me two months of medical benefits if I’d agree to never bad-mouth the organization. I had no intention of disparaging them, but the agreement was so restrictive that this paragraph alone violates the terms of the contract. I could be sued. I opted not to sign.

So, while I’ve got a cool title and a relaxed work schedule, what I don’t have is employer-paid benefits. I’m paying out the nose for mine. I need full employment soon. But in the meantime, I’m off at one o’clock to go for a run.

When I walk in the house, I’m surprised by an unexpected rush of activity. Sophie and Eli are arguing at the kitchen table, eating a Domino’s pizza. Really, they’re eating two pizzas. Domino’s has this ridiculous deal where one medium pizza costs $12.50 and two mediums cost $14.00—so, we always buy two. It’s a happy coincidence that my kids prefer completely different pizzas. They would fight about toppings if we bought only one, so the forced extra purchase works out well for keeping the peace (to a degree). While they eat and argue, Susan bustles about the house knocking out some chores.

I forgot today was a half-day at school. And I expected Susan to be giving a massage. I was counting on an empty house. Suddenly, my plan to go running seems selfish. Maybe I should have some family time instead. I voice this concern to Susan, and she insists that I go for the run. Everyone will still be around when I return.

And this is when I realize just how long it takes me to get out for a run.

Have I eaten enough? Do I need to use the bathroom? Where are my gloves? My compression socks? My watch? That long sleeved wicking-shirt I’ve owned for twenty-three years? My favorite ball-cap? Collecting my crap takes fifteen minutes. Because I only have one of everything, getting ready for a run usually includes digging through laundry. Dirty laundry on the basement floor and clean laundry in baskets waiting to be folded.

Next up are my high-maintenance muscles. My legs need a lot of TLC. I’ve already mentioned the compression socks. These are knee-high socks that “compress” a runner’s calves. They’re ridiculously tight. So tight, it takes twice as long to squeeze into them than it does to put on and tie my shoes. According to the running magazines and marketing materials, compression socks are supposed to increase circulation and reduce injury. I can’t speak to all of this. For me, they keep my calves from knotting up. This happens occasionally on a run, and when it does, I’m walking home.

Daily, I’m supposed to foam-roll my legs. A foam roller is a cylinder made of a stiff, springy material that runners use to massage their muscles. You actually lie down on top of the cylinder, full body-weight, and roll the thing up and down your leg. I need to roll my thighs, my hamstrings and my calves. If I did this every morning instead of sitting at the kitchen table reading the same news from three different websites, I’d always be ready to go. Because I only think about foam rolling as I’m getting dressed for a run, this becomes an extra fifteen minutes I need to tack on to my prep time.

Today, all these little routines seemed to take forever. From the time I said, “I’m going for a run” until the time I actually left the house, more than forty minutes passed. Periodically, I hear a “you’re still here?” from one of my family members.

The last thing I need to do is put on my running shoes. I know where to find these, they pretty much live on my front porch. I do all my running on the horse trails of the Gettysburg Battlefield. If it’s rained at all over the past two weeks, I’m running through puddles. And unfortunately, these aren’t mud-puddles. Decades of horse tours have left the paths covered with a generous layer of dried poop.

One dry August day a few years ago, I ran past a young family hanging out on the trail. The mom and dad watched with uncontained pride as their toddler-aged daughter made a small castle with a mound of loose dust. As much as I thought I should, I couldn’t bring myself to warn them that the girl wasn’t playing in the dirt.

After each run, I return home and kick my shoes off on the porch. They’re usually soaked with muddy poop. My plan is that once they dry, I’ll take a plastic brush—the kind you use for washing your car tires and hubcaps with soapy water on a warm summer day—and brush my shoes clean. Then I can bring them inside. I always forget and leave my shoes on the porch until the next run. In the summer, this is fine, but on a day like today, mid-forties, I put my shoes on and my feet are instantly freezing. They stay cold throughout my run, and as if that isn’t enough foot torture when I finish, I immediately ice the soles of my feet for twenty-five minutes because I’ve got Plantar Fasciitis.

With my dressing ritual, my foam-rolling, my drive to and from the trailhead, and my post-run icing, I’ve killed a full two hours on a four-mile run.

There was a time, a couple of years ago, when I ran once a week. I’d head out for a two or three-hour run every Saturday morning. I moved away from this because I thought I used up too much of the weekend running. I always figured it would be better to take three or four shorter runs each week—less of a time commitment, less of a distraction from my family. Now I’m starting to understand that my old method was way more efficient. With all of my extra pre- and post-run primping, it seems like I’m wasting up to eight hours a week on running. I was wasting half the time when I ran it all at once.

Previously published on Jefftcann.com.

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